Often when I go to a new trail I am disappointed with the ride, perhaps the trail is boring or maybe it's Ok but not worth the 2 hour drive to get there. Sometimes trails just don't challenge me and even after a nice long ride I go away yawning. Some trails are very nice but I come away frustrated because there were so many people that it's almost like being on a city street (with more trees).
So when Todd told me he had found a new trail called Elliot's Crossing on Brett's Unicycling Page which followed along the Rubicon River. I was excited but a little bit of a skeptic. Would this trail be worth the effort?
Elliot's Crossing is about 1 hour 45 minutes east of Sacramento along the Rubicon River. We took Highway 49 to Cool and turned east down 193 past Georgetown. About 20 miles past Georgetown, we missed the turnoff for the Rubicon River and continued on for another 10 miles. The turn is about 1 mile BEFORE the turnoff for Uncle Tom's so if you see a sign for Uncle Tom's you've gone too far and need to turn around (Brett's driving directions are a bit dated). We turned around and eventually found the turnoff for access to the Rubicon River. The road descends into the valley for about 5 miles then there is a big bridge, which crosses the Rubicon River. We crossed the bridge and parked on the far side. There is plenty of parking on both sides of the road, but you need to watch for campers.
I rode this trail again with my Kevin, Kelly, and Eric. A word of warning this trail wears on you quickly. We only rode 11 miles, but it seems like we went much further. The loose trails and steep climbs also wear you out a lot quicker than most trails. I was hoping to go the entire length of the trail, but we were exhausted from a 25+ mile ride the previous day in Auburn.
I still think this is an awesome trail but Kevin and Eric didn't like the fact that there were so many places where you were forced to get off and push.
I was a bit surprised, based on the remoteness of this place I figured the trail would be deserted, but there were several cars and a couple of motorcycles at the trailhead. Apparently, this area is also a popular fly-fishing and camping destination. We headed north down a rocky fire road and after a little confusion discovered the correct trailhead (Itís the second trail on the left hand side). Once you get on the trail just keep going straight down the trail and keep the river on your right. If you get too far away from the river you have probably made a wrong turn.
The trail starts out with a medium grade climb for a short time and then flattens out a bit. The first couple of miles of trail include a significant amount of cliffs and several sections were nearly washed out, leaving a narrow off camber trail, which will scare the whoopy out of almost anyone. I suggest riding this trail with at least one other person because you can get seriously hurt going over one of these cliffs.
Before too long we hit a couple of steep climbs where our back tires broke traction and one or both of us wound up clipping out. The first few miles of this trail involve a lot of climbing and really wore me down.
There were also several tough technical sections that had me walking. Todd cleaned most of them but I just kept focusing on the rocks instead of the lines I should take. The steep climbs really wore on me and I was sucking air for this part of the ride.
We encountered a few groups of hikers/ fishermen in the beginning, but as we got further down the trail it became more and more isolated and the serenity and beauty of the environment really started to sink in. We did encounter a couple of motorcycles further in but they were polite and only a minor annoyance overall. We did feel that the presence of motorbikes on the trail significantly contributed to the problem with loose dirt. While we were there I didnít see any evidence that mountain bikes frequent this trail.
The trail flattens out a bit but there are some extended gradual climbs with lots of loose soil and gravel. Todd and I both had trouble with the loose conditions on climbs. The moderate climbs seemed tough and even on the flats it really started to wear on us. There were a few parts where the trail was so chewed up by the motorbikes it was nearly unrideable for us.
The trail follows the Rubicon River for 10 miles to the Hell Hole Reservoir, which makes the total possible ride of about 20 miles (more is possible). After about 5 miles Todd and I turned around because we were getting concerned about time, we were 2 hours out and my wife was expecting us back in about 1Ĺ hours. Reluctantly, we turned back towards the trailhead.
When we turned around at the halfway point we figured on making similar time back to the car because it didn't seem like we were climbing very much and there were several steep descents we would have to climb on the way out. Boy were we wrong. The ride back to the car was a wild roller coaster ride with a few short climbs. If we could bottle up the rush that we got on the way back down I could make a fortune. The part that I thought was peculiar was the fact that neither of us had realized that we were climbing that much. We had thought we were going over mostly flat ground.
One big advantage this place has over Downieville is the fact that the trail sees only a small fraction of the traffic that the Downieville Downhill does. This ensured that the singletrack was nice and narrow. Of coarse the amount of descending here doesn't compare to Downieville and the Downieville has many sections which are much more technical sections. Elliot's Crossing is just fast rolling singletrack.
The loose leafy soil on the trail made the traction treacherous and Todd had quite a few problems staying on the trail (he thinks it was due to the skinny tires that came on his bike). Todd also was suffering because he forgot to eat breakfast and bonked pretty bad so I think that may have significantly affected his riding on the way down.
Riding along the exposed cliffs at speed on the way back really made the adrenaline kick in. We had several descents on the way back that had to be taken cautiously due to loose soil and the extremely steep grade. There were also long stretches of smooth singletrack where you could just fly down the trail. Even before we got off the trail Todd and I were planning a longer day, which will give us time to get all the way to Hell Hole and back or maybe camp at Hell Hole and come back the next day.
Not only was this trail worth the ride, it is one of those rare trails that calls to you from afar. The unique beauty of the surroundings, miles of awesome singletrack, and plenty of solitude make this one of those trails that I will return to as often as possible.